*Warning: This post contains spoilers for Yellowjackets Season 1 and 2*
Survival requires adaptation, and adaptation requires acceptance. In Season 1 of Showtime’s genre-bending survival drama, a group of teenagers and their soccer coach are stranded in the woods after a plane crash. They spend most of that season trying to survive while simultaneously looking for ways back home. Survival is still their main motivator if the Season 2 premiere is any indication, but now they’re accepting their reality instead of running from it. And that might mean a bit of cannibalism.
In the first season, we follow two timelines: The teenage girls in the woods in 1996 and the adult versions of some of them in the present. Both presented their own unique issues. In 1996, teenage Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) gutted a bear for its meat, and she discovers she’s pregnant. Teenage Misty (Samantha Hanratty) inadvertently drugs the rest with her magic mushrooms, and she intentionally destroys their best shot at returning home because she likes feeling useful for once. In the present day, adult Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) stabs Adam, the man she was having an affair with, to death because she mistakenly thought he was blackmailing her and the rest of the adult survivors. Adult Misty (Christina Ricci) kidnaps (and may have killed) a journalist snooping around the survivors’ business. There’s an orgy here, a dog beheading there, and a lot of madness in between. But, the first season ends with one of the teenage girls, Jackie (Ella Purnell), dead from hypothermia, and one of the adult survivors, Natalie (Juliette Lewis), kidnapped.
Season 2 picks up two months into the teenage group’s first winter in the woods and the day after adult Natalie is taken. The premiere answers some questions but mainly opens up many others. One thing’s for sure; it sets up a season that could be wilder than the one that ended with teenage Lottie (Courtney Eaton) offering a bloody bear heart to some supernatural figure in the woods.
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Adult Lottie, The Cult Leader
Speaking of Lottie: surprise, surprise, she grew up to be the self-help guru from hell with her own cult. After the episode starts with a brief update on how the 1996 crew is fairing in their first winter in the woods, Season 2 introduces a third timeline to the story: Their 1998 return to civilization. For the first time, we see the young women hiding their faces in hoodies from the gaggle of screaming reporters and disorienting camera flashes as they tepidly board a plane, presumably, back to their families. We see glimpses of Taissa (Tawny Cypress), Misty, who once again enjoys getting attention regardless of why, and an emotionless Lottie, who eventually unleashes a primal yell to the crowd like a wild animal keeping intruders away.
Before we continue, it’s worth noting that Yellowjackets is an easter egg-hunting, conspiracy theory-dumping viewer’s dream. The 1998 scene confirmed more people survived the ordeal than the five adults we were introduced to in Season 1. But, we also don’t see many more faces than the ones we knew survived, which will surely send many of you to pause and rewind this scene to count the bodies and compare it to the number of people shivering in that rusty cabin in 1996. One thing the episode leaves no doubt of is Lottie lived into adulthood and only got stranger.
We find out Lottie was essentially a mute when she returned home, prompting her parents to send her to a psych ward for some (extreme, but quite necessary) electroshock therapy. Afterward, we’re brought to present-day adult Lottie (Simone Kessell) back in the woods, convincing people to connect with their “primal, elemental self.” Given the drug-fueled orgies, attempted throat-cutting, and bloody bear heart offerings to a mysterious higher power from her teenage years, it sounds like she’s trying to turn people into savages. Unfortunately for adult Natalie, who a group of Lottie’s followers’ kidnaps, we find her chained to a bed on the campgrounds of Lottie’s cult, but not for long.
Natalie wooed officer Kevyn Tan, an old flame of hers from 25 years ago, into divulging private details about Travis’s death, so it was child’s play to free herself from her shackles and finally confront Lottie. Yes, stabbing a cult member in the eye with a fork they gave you to eat to escape is child’s play for a woman who was seconds away from blowing her brains out with a shotgun. When she finally catches up to Lottie, she finds her cult members masked in animal skulls burying a naked man alive before Lottie reveals she has a message from Travis. Just like back in the woods, adult Lottie is still manipulating people.
Winter Is Here
Before a single character says a word, Yellowjackets introduces us to the newest force that’ll shape the teenage timeline: winter. The episode begins with aerial shots of the mountains the girls once tried reaching in search of salvation now blanketed in snow, and the pond they frolicked and bathed in is now frozen over. The grassy surface they trekked on for food was unrecognizable under the snowfall. Winter already claimed Jackie’s life at the end of Season 1, and the Season 2 premiere makes it abundantly clear the survivors will adapt by any means necessary.
The winter catalyzes the group’s acceptance of their new normal. Our first look inside the cabin finds Shauna resourcefully (and creepily) staving off the cold by sleeping under the fur of the bear she gutted for its meat. Teenage Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) and teenage Travis (Kevin Alves) set out to find food, and Travis’s missing brother Javi (Luciano Leroux), in the unforgiving snow, but not before Lottie implores them to consume water mixed with her blood for protection. Nat initially rebuffs the superstitious ritual before Lottie reminds her they keep coming back from their snowy exploration alive. They may still be stranded, but they’re now making concerted efforts to be no longer helpless.
No one in the cabin mentions how they’ll return home in the season premiere after an entire first season of doing whatever they can to escape. Instead, in the season premiere, teenage Natalie returns from her fruitless food search with a drawing she made of the terrain she canvassed. That’s when we learn she and one-legged coach Ben (Steven Krueger) has been developing a map of their surroundings by piecemeal stitching her disparate drawings. The map is portrayed as a symbol of them treating the woods as their home because they concede they’ll never be found. It’s presented more as an acceptance of the reality of their predicament and a way not simply to take what nature gives them.
However, some of the teenage girls are accepting their new reality in truly disturbing ways.
Shauna, Jackie, and The Ear
After the blood water drinking, electroshock therapy, and cult speech, the episode takes its strangest turn when we find teenage Shauna having full-on conversations with…Jackie! Inside the wooden shack where she slices off the remaining bear meat for dinner, Shauna and Jackie are mapping out Shauna’s future before we find out it’s just Shauna conversing with Jackie’s corpse. As with most hallucinations of dead characters in TV, Jackie is nothing more than a manifestation of Shauna’s guilt-riddled subconscious trying to shield her from the shock of her best friend’s passing and force her to accept the reality of it all.
It’s only so long you can dive into the depths of your psyche before it starts showing you truths you’ve buried away. Near the middle of the episode, the hangout session turns into an interrogation when dead Jackie begins seeking answers about the origins of Shauna’s romance with Jeff while he was still dating her. Specifically, Jackie wanted Shauna to finally admit out loud why she initiated the kissing with Jeff behind her best friend’s back. Shauna refuses to accept it, likely because she’ll realize that she set in motion the chain of events that eroded the trust in her friendship with Jackie, leading to Jackie sleeping outside the cabin and ultimately dying from hypothermia. That’s too much for her to bear at the moment, so instead, she shoved Jackie’s corpse to the ground causing its right ear to fall off.
After unsuccessfully reattaching the frosty ear back onto Jackie’s corpse, Shauna tucks it away in her pocket. Old habits die the hardest, and in the next scene 25 years later, we find out adult Shauna saved Adam’s personal items, a clear violation of some cardinal rule they teach you in Intro To Murdering People And Not Getting Caught 101. Given Shauna coping with Jackie’s death by conversing with her corpse, these souvenirs of past loved are ways to keep her connected to those people and somewhat shield her mind from the terrible she’s done to those people. But, in the Season 2 premiere, her survival depends on letting the past go.
In the present, adult Shauna, along with her accomplice of a husband, stage a random backyard cookout in their backyard to burn all of Adam’s items, so she’s not connected to his murder if the police come snooping. And teenage Shauna ends the episode by biting into Jackie’s ear for sustenance during a winter that has depleted the food options for her and her unborn child.
We have finally crossed over into the cannibalism era, so make sure your stomachs can handle it.
Keith Nelson is a writer by fate and journalist by passion, who has connected dots to form the bigger picture for Men’s Health, Vibe Magazine, LEVEL MAG, REVOLT TV, Complex, Grammys.com, Red Bull, Okayplayer, and Mic, to name a few.
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